03 Mei 2017

Conquering the Mighty Witels

We have not hiked for a long long time.
We have walked. We have strolled. We have toddled.
But we have not HIKED

So we decided to take on the Witels.
The Witels is the king of the Cape kloofs: the ultimate 3-5 day kloofing experience.
Riaan and some of our other team members have an impressive number of Witelses on their hiking record.
It would be my first, and although it has been on my to-do list for ever,  I was a little apprehensive. The only kloofing I had done to date was Groothoekkloof, which has more abseiling and swimming than boulder hopping.

Our group was going to be Dr Browne and Mr Dr Browne from Sutherland, (kaalvoet) Colyn from Ceres, his brothers Sep and Andrew, both medical doctors from Cape Town, Riaan and myself.
2 Engineers, 3 doctors, and a lone horticulturist.
I know engineers can do ANYTHING, but I was relieved to have a solid amount of doctors on the team. Clambering up kilometer high mountains and hopping from rock to rock down a river for 5 days is not something we do every day, so I did not know how far we could trust our abilities and muscle memory.

When Colyn said that he was taking little Mia (8), a lot of thoughts went through my head.  When he mentioned casually that they had to do it in 3 days instead of 5 because he had to be back at work, and she at school,  I went straight into a little room in my mind that I hide very well. The one where I store all the unwanted parenting advice that I want to give parents that I think are fucking up. I usually keep the door firmly closed, because I know how much I hate being on the receiving end of such advice, but when I really need to, I go in there and fling some what if's and how can you's and what the hell do you think you are doing's around until I feel better. And then I come out smiling and let them do whatever they want.
Because they will do it anyway.

It was a quick session.
"Colyn..have you thought about this? Have you THOUGHT about this? 30 km's with an 8 year old in 3 days. Boulderhopping and swimming. Do you know she might not hike again in her LIFE?" was soon replaced by: "I actually like your guts. If she makes it without a mayor mishap, she might remember it for a very long time. And if she manages this at 8, who knows what adventures she will be willing to take on when she is 12. Maybe she will hike some unconquered mountain with a few sturdy adventurers at 16, when most other girls are chasing boys in fast cars."
I liked that thought, so I kept it and pushed the rest back behind the door.

We gathered at the Murray house late on the evening of 24 February. Erica and tannie Lizette were putting Mia to bed, looking just a tiny bit worried.  After a few jokes, comparing pack weights, and establishing that at least one doctor had brought a decent medical kit, we hit the mattresses so that we could get up before the crack of the crack of dawn and be at least halfway up the mountain when the sun decided to show up. The next morning we started out in the last bit of night, and drew the day up the mountain as we went.

We managed to get up most of the mountain in the shade, even though we had many small stops along the way, supposedly for Mia.

"The way is dark, and getting darker. The hut is high, and even higher. I wish you luck. there is none". 

The New Base hut - an interesting little structure built into a rock. I could almost see a little lady with a black pot on the stoep, making porridge for 20 cats.

Game break with the frogs and some red flowers that were hard to identify.

At last, the top of the mountain. A proud moment for Colyn and Mia. Pell's hut and lunch was in sight!

An elaborate beacon - probably built by those 2nd years whose traces we saw everywhere. 

The down was excruciating. More so than the up. But when we finally dropped down into the kloof, it was heavenly.
 It was a short hike from the entry point to Disa Camp, where we spent the first night. Disa Camp is the largest camp of the hike, with some very nicely laid out sleeping places. The Brown(e)ses had an upper room, quite private with nooks and crannies for all the necessities they brought along. Items which at first I thought a total waste of space and energy -and utter luxury, come on! , but some of which I was very grateful for later on the trip. Lip-ice and peaceful sleep, to name two.

A very gallant warning not to take the high route - I was immediately rebellious, so Riaan tested it out to make sure it was safe. 
Photos can not really do justice to the size and grandure of the cliffs

A little private waterfall

 Very unusual species of Rock Biting Trees - we spotted quite a few.

     The most magical, beautiful moment for me was on night three, when Riaan went to wash the dishes in the river, and he shouted for us to come and see. In the light of his headlamp, a huge eel lazily swam past the rock on which he was standing. It was so unexpected, that when it disappeared into the shadows it almost felt as if we had dreamt it.

On day 5, the slowcoaches (us and the Brownes) finished the hike with a hell of a long trek through the grass. The rest of the group had long since left us behind - Andrew started day two early and on the run and finished late that evening, Colyn, Sep and Mia started early as well, and ended late on day three. We found evidence of their journey along our way - even some clothes that was left behind to make things easier.

Here are the Brownes - visibly thinking that they should have been home hours ago, scrubbed clean with dove soap and enjoying a cold beer.

Halleluja for Die Oestafel, which have been built in EXACTLY the right spot. Just when tired hikers give their VLSE, there it is. And the waiters literally come running to offer you heavenly dishes that make you realize that you are, in fact, still alive. Or rather, that you want to stay alive until they deliver on their promises.
And then you can finish dying.

Thank you to everyone who made this hike a most memorable experience. Colyn for organising, Mia for showing us what girl spirit looks like, Andrew and Sep for being the best uncles ever - we will recommend you to anyone looking for one. Keith and Natasha for being our hikefellows for the whole 5 days. We still miss you. Natasha, I have been scientifically measuring and comparing the armpit hairgrowth - mine are equal.  I think.... yours could be a bit on the abnormal side. Maybe have it checked out? :--)

Here is to our next adventure!

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